Monday, August 30, 2010

Vanuatu: Jesus speaks North Tanna language on new DVD

From the Vanuatu Daily Post, August 30, 2010:

The North Tanna People are celebrating the release of the new "JESUS" DVD in the North Tanna language.  The 2 hour DVD covers the life of Jesus Christ, from the predictions of the prophets in the old Testament through his birth, life, death and resurrection.  The video uses professional actors while the voices are done by North Tanna speakers. The result is a moving video with a clear gospel message.

Since 1979 the "JESUS" film has been viewed by several billion people all across the globe, and has resulted in more than 225 million men, women and children indicating decisions to follow Jesus Christ.  By God's grace, this film is yielding a spiritual harvest of unprecedented results.

People ask, "But how can any single film reach so many people and touch so many lives?" It is the power of the Word of God in their heart language.

Based on the Gospel of Luke, the "JESUS" film has now been translated into more than 1000 languages, with a new language being added nearly every week. This brings God's Word to people in more than 200 countries in language they know and understand.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Development of Computer Tools

 Adapt-It and Paratext

Adapting a translation from a related language that already has a finished translation, or work in progress. It creates one file containing the translation, the back translation, and any notes the translator wants to include.  Many translators are using these programs.

LTtoLPC - Language Tools to Low Power Computers like the Dana and Neo Alpha Smart.


WeSay is an Open Source project aimed at providing computer tools to help communities perform several language development activities on their own. It will be extremely simple, task oriented, and available on hardware that is appropriate to their environment. At the same time, these tools will enable data sharing with advisors running more traditional, high-powered linguistic and publishing software. The idea is to empower communities to do their own high-quality data gathering, leaving the more technical aspect of publishing to more traditional platforms.

WeSay will be of interest in those situations where
native speakers are ready to play a direct, ongoing role in the construction of a dictionary and collection/transcription of stories in their own language, using something other than paper. For more information:

myWorkSafe: Smart and Simple Backup For Language Development Workers

myWorkSafe aims to provide a zero-configuration backup system for a particular kind of user. That user does best when things are simple. He is using computers primarily as an appliance for doing language development work. He may find the raw file system confusing, and may end up putting documents in various places, including the Desktop. He may collect videos, music, games, and installers, quickly overwhelming the USB flash drives which were intended to be used to backup his language development work. He may need reminding to backup, and perhaps prompting to cycle between different backup devices. Finally, he may be far from technical help, may not notice the early signs of hard drive failure, and may be subject to a high-risk of laptop theft.

SayMore: Language Documentation Session Organizer

"Recording speakers of the world’s languages is fun and rewarding, but keeping all the resulting files and meta data organized? Painful.

That’s why we built SayMore– to make staying organized easy and to keep you productive. "

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Academic Training in Papua New Guinea

SIL-PNG is committed to training Papua New Guineans to work in language developemnt:

Strengthening Tokples Education in Papua New Guinea (STEP)

- is a training program for Papua New Guineans that teaches them how to set up and manage community-based literacy programs for children and adults.

- STEP consists of five one-month instructional modules which are completed in less than two years.

- Village assignments provide practical opportunities to apply concepts and skills learned in the formal classroom setting.

For more information:
Translators Training Course

The Bible translation organisations BTA, SIL, PBT offer a series of four training courses in Bible translation. The courses are especially designed for Papua New Guineans who wish to begin Bible translation. The courses emphasize understanding the Biblical text and translating it accurately and acceptably into "tokples" (their own language).

Biblical Study Courses

Consists of six, 5 week, courses held over a period of two years using university level curriculum. Designed for experienced Papua New Guinea translators.

- Old and New Testament Introduction

- Old and New Testament Exegesis

- Greek and Hebrew Language Studies

Monday, August 9, 2010

Reflections on the meetings

The SIL Pacific Area meetings at Kangaroo Ground are over and I'm thinking, "How do I communicate the things I've learned this week?  How do I tell the stories that I've heard?  How do I communicate the emotions I'm feeling?"  For the Star Trek fans, this is when the Spock "mind-meld" would come in handy!

Kangaroos everywhere!
First of all, I'm grateful for friends that we served with in Papua New Guinea. The community life we experienced there is something that we haven't replicated here in the US.  We worked, worshipped, shopped, and experienced "life" with the people at Ukarumpa and we do miss this close-knit community!  We were blessed to attend these meetings with special friends too!
I'm encouraged and excited about what is happening in the Pacific in Bible translation. The story of the loaves and fish was often mentioned since at times we feel we have only a few people to serve so many but we remind ourselves to look to God to miraculously use what/who He has given us to meet the needs.

A few highlights:

Translation: Progress is being made in over 200 languages but there are many languages still waiting for a translation project to begin.  In PNG, there are 30 allocations on the priority allocation list. 12 are in the high priority category, two of which are for multi-language projects. Who will go to serve these communities and those in Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, and other islands?

Enthomusicology: We heard about a music writing workshop that teaches people to write their own cultural worship songs in their own language that speaks to their spiritual needs.  Any musicians want to be involved?

Scripture and Literacy Training: Pacific S.A.L.T. course — an intensive two-week training session designed to equip local church leaders with outreach techniques, encourage the use of the translated Scriptures, and promote an understanding of God’s Word in their own language.  Do you have 2 years (or the rest of your life)  to help?

Nationals involved in Bible translation:

David Gela and Steven Thomas, from PNG-BTA shared about the needs in Papua New Guinea and their desire to see Papua New Guineans to have Scripture in their own language.

Joshua Lui: Bible translator from the Solomans, "We need more translation advisors in the Solomon Islands".  The Solomans have people ready to translate but they need training.  How about giving 10 years to be an advisor to someone like Joshua?

Pastor Peter Ray: Bible translator from Vanuatu and Chairman of  Vanuatu Bible Translation . He would love to see all the ni-Vanuatu have Scriptures in their heart language.  From Pastor Peter, "Come, just come."

Training: A big part of our work is spent in training. What is our plan and what is the best way to train? I was encouraged to hear about all the training that is going on and what is being planned. More about this in a future blog.

There's support for the work: Project Funding (There's some money available.), Language Technology support (Computers are great! How do we use them?), Communications (Let's tell our stories to others).
How can we engage more communities in Bible translation?  Perhaps Bible-storying is the place to start?

These are just a few highlights but I wanted to give you a taste of what I heard in the meetings. I'm so glad I went and came away very encouraged.  God is good and He is able to accomplish His purposes.  Isn't it amazing that He allows us to partner with Him to bring the Word to those that don't have it in their heart language?  When people read His Word in their own language, often a foreign God becomes a personal God.  What a great work to be involved in!

This isn't my last post, in the weeks ahead, my plan is to put more information about the work in the Pacific Area.  If you want to learn more or have questions, please contact me:

SIL Pacific Area meetings

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Request from a Pastor: What about other languages?

The Numanggang people celebrated the dedication of the New Testament in their language with dancing, dramas, a worship service and many speeches. One of the speakers on that day in January 2006 was the president of the Lutheran church district in the area and he gave a charge to everyone present, saying that the work was not done yet.

To the Numanggang people, he said, “Now you need to use these Bibles. Read them. Study them. Teach others to do the same.”

Then he challenged the SIL members who were present, saying that our job wasn’t done either, although we were working with several language groups in the area. “There are eleven language groups in my church district”, he said. “What are you going to do about the rest of them?”

In March 2006, six languages in the same language family as Numanggang were surveyed. Two of those groups have since started- Saut Manda [skc] (currently listed as Sauk in the Ethnologue) and Nakame [nib] (currently listed as Nakama in the Ethnologue).

The West Erap Multi-Language Project hopes to include two more.

Another, Mungkip is spoken by very few people now, and the residents of Mungkip village are shifting to the Uri language, which has a New Testament, and Tok Pisin, The report on Mungkip has been published online at

This Pastor has been involved with checking of Scripture in his own language, Nek, which is currently in progress.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Arts Consultant and Ethnomusicology

If you love performing, are interested in cross-cultural research and want to see Scripture reach every culture, God may want you to work as an arts consultant!

Arts Consultant: Understanding:

The following is a report from the BTA-SIL Port Moresby Music Workshop, 7-11 June 2010

Topics of the new songs reflected our discussions of local, contextual imagery. One song, for example, talks about how in PNG towns every building has a fence or wall around it, with security guards keeping watch; but despite the fear Papua New Guineans feel about criminal activity, our only true security is from Jesus (“Jisas em i strongpela banis tru”). Another song laments a broken family, telling the troubles a family faces when the father leaves: “Who can look after a family like a father? Now he's gone and our mother doesn't have work, so how will we pay our school fees, buy new clothes, food?” Then the song turns to God as our true father who never leaves and will always provide. I appreciated seeing these participants move away from easy and generic Australian and American praise songs and begin to wrestle with the real issues in PNG.

Friday afternoon we talked about how to keep this new interest in songwriting going. Steven Thomas offered the BTA Centre for a meeting place if participants want to keep meeting periodically, and also offered BTA's assistance in getting songs recorded in a studio and on the air on NBC Radio and Wantok Radio Light. Participants have a strong desire to keep meeting and continue the songwriting. Steven suggested that I make another visit to Moresby later this year and run another course, this time using these participants as teaching staff and reaching out to even more of Moresby's church leaders. Earlier in the week, one of the Lutheran pastors said that he wants this course to be taught at the three Lutheran seminaries in PNG; he stressed that the changes that need to take place musically in PNG churches will only happen if pastors understand the concepts and even preach it from the pulpit. He is eager that I meet with other Lutheran leaders in Moresby the next time I pass through. I was encouraged by these comments, especially as these are directions that SIL-PNG is already moving.

As immediate follow-up to this workshop, I have edited the recorded songs and sent them on CD to Steven at BTA, who will make copies for each participant. I also hope to see some of these people again when I pass through Moresby next month en route to Singapore.

This workshop could not have happened without BTA's assistance and strong support. All of the BTA staff who assisted with the workshop were amazing. I felt that this workshop not only marked a great partnership between SIL and BTA—a partnership that we plan to continue in the next year with further courses in Moresby and a course in Lae—but it was a tremendous opportunity for BTA to reach out to local churches in Moresby, showing love and providing teaching and training that was of immediate value to participants.

Music to My Soul

Rebekah Drew spent a short time as a Discovery student on the island of Lambom in New Ireland Province. She didn’t know much of the language, and that made it difficult to really connect with people. But she found that music opened many doors. “I spent many hours learning to sing songs in their Siar-Lak language, and teaching them songs in English as well. These were great times of sharing and strengthening each other’s faith. They also asked me to teach them how to read Western music notation.”

Six years later, she had the opportunity to return to Lambom after receiving some training in ethnomusicology. “The people were very enthusiastic about the songwriting workshop I held. About 50 people showed up each day. Together we studied God’s Word to discover what it says about worship and music. Then the people composed new songs in their language.” They were recorded, burned onto CDs, and put into songbooks along with other songs that they already had in their language. At the same time, Rebekah noticed that the men’s side of the church was noticeably emptier than the women’s side on Sunday mornings. The youth group that was strong before had dissolved. The young men walked around pridefully and rebelliously.

Five months later, Karen Rowe, the translator who has worked with the Siar-Lak for many years, noticed that the young men of the village had stopped being trouble-makers, and were filling the men’s side of the church. Another person told her, “The prideful young men have repented and turned from their former ways.” When asked why, she said that it was from them hearing the songs that were composed during the song-writing workshop. “Hearing the songs, they couldn’t rest,” she said. “Through the worship songs which were in their heart language, the Holy Spirit convicted them of their sins and they have now repented and are being taught by the church!”

Praise God for this wonderful change, and for the fruit that has come from this songwriting workshop!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

PNG Bible Translation Association

The PNG Bible Translation Association (BTA) is a Papua New Guinean organization committed to translating the Bible into the languages of the country. It is also involved in literacy and Scripture engagement work. BTA works under the local church, and partners with other organisations such as SIL PNG, PNG Bible Society, and Pioneer Bible Translators.

Their Mission:

Papua New Guinea Bible Translation Association exists to glorify God in PNG by working with the people in providing the Word of God in their heart languages so that they become disciples of Jesus Christ, living like Him.

BTA has a great need for a Finance Manager, a Project Funding Manager-Coordinator, a Personnel Manager/Director, Language Development Director, Facilities Manager and Guest House Manager.

For more information:

David Gela - Executive Director
Steven Thomas - Associate Director for Church Engagement and Associate Director for Operations